U.S. Department of Agriculture revises guidelines for cooking pork

FILE - In this March 3, 2011 file photo, boneless pork loins sit waiting to be packaged at a local Dahl's grocery store in Des Moines, Iowa. The U.S. Department of Agricultureâ AP

USDA announces new pork cooking guidelines
AP

(CBS/AP) Pink pork has gotten the green light from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The agency's Food Safety and Inspection Service lowered its temperature recommendation for cooking pork to 145 degrees from 160 degrees - a change from the agency's longstanding guideline that puts pork  to the same standards as beef, veal and lamb.

The USDA also called for letting the pork rest for three minutes after cooking so the temperature is maintained during that time killing off remaining pathogens.

"With a single temperature for all whole cuts of meat and uniform three minute stand time, we feel it will be much easier for consumers to remember and result in safer food preparation," USDA Under Secretary Elisabeth Hagen said in a statement.

The USDA made the change after several years of research and talks with producers and food safety experts. Producers have proposed the change since 2008 because improved feed and housing methods have reduced the risk of pathogens.

Dr. James McKean, associate director of the Swine Industry Center at Iowa State University, said moving hogs inside to reduce exposure to disease-carrying wildlife helped push for the temperature change.

"As we've moved pigs inside, put them in bird proof buildings and applied rodent control, the incidence of (diseases) have dramatically reduced over the past 40 years," McKean said.

"I believe, based on research, 145 degrees is a safe temperature," he added.

Despite the new recommendation, ground meat must still be cooked to 160 degrees and all poultry products must be cooked to 165 degrees. People should place a digital thermometer in the thickest part of the meat to ensure they're meeting these guidelines.

But the change is nothing new for chefs whose restaurants are regulated by the FDA - which has allowed the lower cooking temperature for a decade.

Rob Weland, a chef at upscale Poste Moderne Brasserie in Washington D.C. said he's glad the USDA finally got with the times. He has always cooked pork to the lower temperature because chefs knew it was safe and the taste is clearly better. But will pork-peddling backyard grillers adapt to the new guidelines and leave a little pink in their meat?

"People have been taught this for generations and it's going to take a long time to get this removed," Weland said. "It will be good for the next generation not to be so fearful so they can enjoy pork in a way they may not have been able to in the past."

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